|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1; 2-4 online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time for Wii is a classic case of when good games go bad. There is absolutely no reason this game should have ever been made for Wii. Sure, playing with friends who have either the DS or Wii is a nice idea, but in practice it all falls apart. Why? The graphics and dual screen presentation are poor and the controls are abysmal. Both of these problems, doubtless, are not an issue with the DS version. But, on Wii, the game is at times unplayable.
And thats a shame, because there are a lot of gameplay mechanics and ideas that are really fun; the mini-games are nice, the dungeons are loaded with interesting puzzles, baddies, and bosses, and playing through the story with friends is great. However, let me make this as clear as I possibly can: GET THIS GAME ON DS! Not only will the game actually work, youll probably have a very fun time with it.Echoes of Time takes place in a peaceful era when all of the famed crystals of power have vanished from the globe. Unbeknownst to the outside world, one small village, located deep within an enchanted forest, protects the last remaining crystal. You begin the adventure as a 16 year-old boy or girl who has just come of age. After being presented with a pure crystal shard from the crystals protector, Sherlotta, our hero finds him/herself in a conundrum: a young village girl falls deathly ill, and it is up to the hero to venture out into the wide world to find the cure for the crystal sickness. However, there is a law in the village preventing anyone from leaving the safety and seclusion of the forest. Sherlotta and the village elder make an exception this one time, and the hero sets off to find the cure for the ancient, magical affliction. Little does the cloistered hero know that venturing out into the world is dangerous not only to himself but to the isolated village as well. So begins the yarn spun in Echoes of Time. Players will enjoy the fantasy told by the game, the NPCs presented, and the various dangers set against them.
Starting the game, players will select a character from one of four tribes: Clavats, Yukes, Selkies, and Lilties. Clavats are melee specialists. Yukes are a magic-focused lot. Selkies are athletic, hybrid warriors. Finally, Lilties are like a cross between halflings and dwarves; theyre as cute as can be, but pack a wallop with their hammers. The four races play very differently, making diverse party selection essential whether playing alone or with other players. For example, Clavats and Lilties do a great job of absorbing damage and keeping baddies occupied. Yukes then have enough time to lay some serious magical hurt on the foes. Selkies too are essential, as their ability to jump up and reach switches is crucial for advancing through many of the dungeons. During single-player, party selection is done either by accepting low-level characters into your party, or bringing an experienced mercenary into the fold. In multiplayer, no A.I. members are allowed, but joining up with friends and unknowns either regionally or globally is fairly simple although, it does take some time to acquaint yourself with the convoluted matching menus. Once your party is formed, you can then begin investigating the darkest, dankest places in the realm.
Speaking of foreboding places, players will have to make their way through a series of them in order to obtain new items, rise in level, advance the main plot, and even for completing side missions. These complexes are varied in scope, full of enjoyable environmental puzzles, and culminate in fun boss battles. Fans of other Crystal Chronicles entries and even Zelda buffs will thoroughly enjoy the dungeon-crawling found in Echoes of Time. Playing with either friendly A.I. or friends is a lot of fun, as teamwork is incredibly important in order to romp through the game efficiently. Unfortunately, hooking up with randoms is a recipe for disaster. Thats because many players are happy to go it alone, or just dick around on top of dancing boxes. Its enough to make you want to slit your wrists. As such, youd do well to play this game only with like-minded players. Even so, getting yourself organized is difficult. The chat system in Echoes of Time is very cumbersome, so players are best served if they use a computer-based messaging service, Skype through the PSP, live chat through Xbox 360 or PS3, etc. Another good tactic is to just appoint the host the leader everyone else has to follow that person or suffer through tedium. After all, theres no camera controls in Echoes of Time. The resulting narrow views make it quite easy to get temporarily separated from party members, especially in bigger rooms.
Outside of dungeon-crawling, players can also take on side quests (essentially mini-games) that test the players abilities and provide for a bit of competition. While this is a nice diversion whilst playing with other players, playing alone just gets tiresome. The only real reason to play them solo is that the mini-games will reward a successful effort with gold, scrolls, materials, and orbs. Gold, scrolls, and materials are important because they allow you to place customized equipment orders in town. Rather than just purchasing mundane items, players can actually have the smithy beat out infused armors and weapons. Whats more, acquired jewels can also be affixed to equipment to confer even more bonuses. Finally, old, yet valuable equipment can be transmuted into jewels for use with fresh gear. The vast amount of weapons and ways to create them is a truly compelling feature of Echoes of Time.
Of course, playing the mini-games is not the only way to beef up your characters. Players will also accrue experience points and gain levels by fighting in dungeons. Leveling makes your pertinent stats more powerful, just as in any other RPG. Where Echoes strays from the formula is in the way magical skill is handled. Orb pickups and magic stacking are the ways in which players increase their magical abilities and make their effects more powerful. Circular orbs will drop as players defeat beasties. Each orb belongs to Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Cure, Raise, or Clear magic. Each orb will confer a specific amount of XP to that category. Thus, as players collect the orbs, they become more powerful. Likewise, laying single spells on enemies and friendlies is effective, but stacking magic doubles and even triples the effects. Moreover, layering different types of spells will give you unique results. For example, stacking Clear and Fire on a party member will summon a barrier that doubles their defense; pretty cool! Magic is a bit slow to use, but it is also very rewarding; I really enjoyed the complexity of magic use.